Lock-down defense, home court fans and sizzling second-half shooting earned the University of Saint Francis women’s basketball team a 72-62 win over eighth-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University and with the win at least a share of the 2006 Mid-Central Conference regular season championship.

Along with defense that limited defending MCC champs IWU (23-5, 10-4 MCC) to 37 percent shooting in the second half (11 for 30), the Lady Cougars connected on 65 percent (13 for 20) shooting in the second half. More than 800 fans warmed up Hutzell Athletic Center in the NAIA Division II Top 25 re-match between sixth-ranked USF and the eighth-ranked Wildcats, who held the No. 1 spot for four weeks earlier this year.

USF (19-6, 12-1 MCC) ignited what would turn in its 10th win in a row when Megan Dossen tied the game at 46 with 1-of-2 free throws at the 11:43 mark. And Nikki Lewis broke the tie after an IWU miss slashing through the paint and scoring for a 48-46 lead at the 11:05 mark using a crafty feed from Cassie Reeder.

Gradually the Lady Cougars kept adding points on the offensive end on two baskets from Chivonn Keppeler, who sat 15 minutes in the first half with two fouls, another basket by Dossen, and then a drive down the left side of the paint by Amanda Engleking. After a scoreless first half, Keppeler scored nine points in the second half.

“She really stepped up big for us. We knew we needed to use them and it was the guards fault for not being able to find them inside in the first half,” Engleking said.‑”Wesleyan is a great team,” USF coach Gary Andrews said. “They shot 13 for 19 in the first half. We played great defense in the second half. Our balance made the difference tonight.”

“Megan shut down Howerth, that was a big key. Megan’s size made a difference and she played smart.

“She made Howerth battle, blocked a couple shots,” USF assistant coach Jenny Andrews added.

” We thought if we could buy some time for Megan and give her different looks with Nikki and Bessie (Jenkins) guarding her in first half, we might wear her down.”

Dossen led USF scoring with 14 points while Dossen and Lewis limited Howerth to five points in the second half, 14 for the game. Howerth averages 18.4 per game. Lewis finished with 12 points and Cassie Reeder and Engleking added 10 points apiece. Reeder returned to the game after getting flipped head over heals trying to defend a shot.

“Howerth likes to take over. That is just her role, to take charge,” Dossen pointed out. ” I knew that is what she was going to want to do in the second half. My mentality was to come out and try and shut her down. I wanted this game badly.”

“We emphasized playing defense for the entire 30 seconds, no ifs, ands or buts about it. They will just wear you down until they get that one opening at the last second.”

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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